Autistic students’ experiences, opportunities and challenges in Higher Education in Singapore: a qualitative study: A Qualitative Study

Elinor Lim, Shawn Wong, Emine Gurbuz, Steven K. Kapp, Beatriz López, Iliana Magiati

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Abstract

The number of autistic people entering higher education (HE) is increasing steadily across the globe, yet research on understanding their experiences and support needs still focuses almost exclusively on the perspectives of autistic students attending HE in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The present study sought to explore and understand (i) the experiences, opportunities, and challenges of autistic students in HE in Singapore; and (ii) non-autistic HE students’ experiences of studying alongside and socially engaging with their autistic peers. Twenty autistic and twenty-two non-autistic HE students in Singapore completed an online survey with open-ended questions. Framework analysis identified themes similar to those in the extant literature (e.g., autistic students enjoyed greater autonomy in HE compared to school, but often found difficulty juggling their numerous academic responsibilities) and novel themes pertaining to Singapore’s unique sociocultural context (e.g., Singaporean autistic people face high pressure to “blend in” due to societal values of conforming to social norms). Participants also noted considerable social isolation of autistic students, likely linked to a double empathy problem between autistic and non-autistic students. Improving inclusiveness both within HE and in the wider society is a necessarily joint effort among many stakeholders. Recommendations include HE stakeholders working together to develop and improve supports (e.g., implementing formal transition programmes) for autistic students and incorporating neurodiversity education into school curricula for all students.
Original languageEnglish
Article number818
Number of pages18
JournalEducation Sciences
Volume13
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2023

Keywords

  • community participation
  • higher education
  • qualitative research
  • Singapore

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